MAIN STREETS ACROSS AMERICA
Syracuse, New York – Armory Square

Main Streets 2016: New York

Armory Square is an example of how a city can take a declining neighborhood and turn it into a showplace where people once again want to live, play and shop. This centerpiece on the west side of Syracuse’s downtown rebounded from a post-World War II flight of businesses and residents, and today it’s thriving again.

Ranged around Armory Square are architecturally significant historic buildings, along with new construction designed to fit in with the neighborhood. Central to it all is the former Syracuse Armory. This imposing red-brick complex was once used to quarter cavalry and infantry, and it’s now is home to the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology. The “MOST” is a major downtown attraction with fascinating hands-on exhibits, the Silverman Planetarium and the 216-seat Bristol IMAX Omnitheater.

Densely built and very busy at the turn of the 20th century, this area once hosted over 20 hotels, thanks to the train station here. But after the railroad industry fell on hard times, many buildings in the Armory Square neighborhood were demolished between 1940 and 1960. The work to rebuild and revitalize the Square began in the early 70s, and in 1984, the Armory Square Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It covers much of  what is now known as Armory Square and includes well-preserved buildings such as the railroad station and the Labor Temple.

There’s perhaps no better symbol of the importance of this neighborhood to Syracuse’s identity than the Shot Clock Monument, right in the center of Armory Square. This landmark is a replica of the 24-second clock that, according to the monument plaque, saved basketball from stalling tactics, and was first used in Syracuse in 1954. Basketball is very important here; the Syracuse Orange at Syracuse Unversity are one of the nation’s most storied and competitive college teams.

Today the Square is where Syracuse residents gather for many events. During summer and into the fall, the Wednesday Walk is the time to get out and learn about the city’s history, parks, architecture and meeting spaces. Also in summer, the Candlelight Series draws people to Armory Square for music and food.

But it’s not just special events that make the square a place to visit. Some of the city’s best-known restaurants have found their way to the neighborhood. Interesting local stores abound — and when Syracuse goes out for a night on the town, Armory Square is often where folks are headed.

Candlelight Series photo courtesy of Chuck Wainwright
All other photos courtesy of Downtown Committee of Syracuse

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  1. The turnaround for Armory Square started with visionary Patrick Heagerty, RIP, co-founder of Pastabilities Restaurant: now a national treasure.